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April 25, 2011

I Was Just Thinking: My 'interview' with Patsy Cline


Daily Star

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I got a phone call at the radio station last week.

"Patsy Cline on line 2, Big Chuck."

Finally.

I'd been waiting for this interview for a long time.

"Hello, Patsy, it is so nice to hear from you."

"Hi ya, Big Chuck. Gosh, it's been a while."

"Yes. I saw you on TV yesterday. You looked and sounded fantastic!"

"You always had a way with the women." She laughed with her trademark deep-throated growl. "But you know, I'm lightening up on the pedal a little bit. It's just not as easy to get the old gitalong goin' anymore," she said with a chuckle.

"Patsy, I wanted to let you know that our Oneonta Theatre Stage Players just put on a show about your life here in town. More than 1,000 people went to see it. The gal who played you was great. I mean, I could close my eyes and it sounded like one of your old records."

"Yes," she said. "It's called 'Always ... Patsy Cline,' right? That show has been going around for years now. As you know, I'll be celebrating my 80th birthday in a couple of weeks, and I hear there are lots of celebrations being held in my honor around the country. But to have a live musical out there reliving my story every night somewhere in the good ol' U.S.A., well, that just about takes the cake.

"And, sure, I heard that Cassie Buckley and Janeen Bagley played me and Louise just about perfectly. Louise and I talk every Sunday night still, and she thinks this play is a hoot. I hear these things, don't you know. Yes, I still have a lot of friends up there in 'Big O Country,'" she said with a laugh.

"Speaking of honors, Patsy," I continued, "what are some of your favorite ones?"

"Well, the night I was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1973, Lord, I couldn't stop bawling. I practically grew up in the old Mother Church down there and sang at the Opry before anyone had ever heard of me. And to have Sonny James induct me, oh, what a handsome devil he is!

In 1995, I was given the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in New York City. Everybody remembers that night. Frank Sinatra and Miss Ella came out and sang 'Crazy' with this old country girl from Winchester, Va. That's pretty high cotton, Big Chuck."

I asked her if she had ever met a U.S. president.

"Three. I was invited to the LBJ ranch back in 1967. Lyndon and Lady Bird were also from the South, so we got along famously. And that war in Asia was sure draggin' him down a might. I think I was able to lift his spirits a little that day, dear man.

And President Clinton came to Nashville in 1993 and played the sax while I sang on the golden circle over at the Ryman.

And Ronnie and Nancy, of course, I've known them forever. We had a lovely dinner at the White House in 1987 when I got the Kennedy Center Honor. He took me into his closet and showed me his cowboy boot collection. That man had a different pair of kickers for every day of the month! Lovely people, all of them, my, my ...," she trailed off.

"Patsy, our time is short, so is there anything you'd like to say on the eve of your 80th birthday to my audience here in Oneonta?"

"Well, Big Chuck, I want to thank you for playing my music all these years on WDOS. It's all good on the backside of life. I still see my old music friends whenever I can. In fact, Loretta and I play cards about once a month at her house. Of course, we always keep an empty seat for Tammy, God rest her soul.

"And Charlie and I are celebrating our 65th anniversary in a year. Our kids, Julie and Randy, are always coming around with the grandbabies. My bank account is healthy; I can still put my feet on the floor in the morning and my head on the pillow at night. Yes, sir, the Good Lord watches over this old cowgirl."

"Patsy, thanks for the chat today. I know my listeners really enjoyed hearing from you. We love you up here in central New York. Oh, and happy birthday."

"Bless your heart, Big Chuck. Y'all take care."

Of course none of this ever happened, and the interview never took place.

Oh, how I wish Patsy had missed her plane that rainy March 5, 1963.

I'll catch you in two ...

'Big Chuck' D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.